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Wednesday, June 12, 2013


We live in a hairy age, when stubble or hair on a man’s face is thought to be a good thing.

Proof of this is all around: full beards on the pasty white faces of twenty two year olds; Ho Chi Minh goatees on the chins of drug dealers, the homeless, karate kids, bankers, supermarket clerks and bicycle messengers. And in that other hairy world, or the world of facial stubble, the famous five o’ clock shadow has become the nearly permanent ten o’clock shadow, proving—as if you needed proof at this point—that this is the Season of facial hair.

A recent article on cited a survey of 351 women in which they were asked to rate a man’s appearance in terms of facial hair. Are bearded men more attractive than clean shaven or stubbly faced men? By a slim margin, the women found that men with at least a 10-day growth of stubble were the most attractive, and that overall hair on a man’s face conveyed “masculinity and maturity.” In addition, most of the women thought that bearded men or even those with thick ten o’clock shadows, had potential “good parenting skills.” (Yes, you read that right.) While fully bearded Moses-style men and clean-shaven guys also scored high on the list, men with a 10-day growth of stubble won hands down every time.

Stubble, of course, is really just a beard- in- progress, and has a shelf life of about ten minutes. Maintaining stubble means shaving it off before it reaches the Moses-stage. Stubble men, therefore, are also clean shaven men, at least for a while.

One common criticism of the full Moses beard is what can happen when you try to plant a kiss on the lips of the man hidden inside all that hair: Might those hair follicles contain remnants of yesterday’s food?

Some men grow beards because they want to hide a weak chin or mandible. Not so long ago a strong chin used to be an emblem of masculinity. While there’s little talk of strong chins anymore, a man with a pointed or weak chin can always camouflage it behind a beard. You can also hide acne scars and wrinkles behind a beard. Double chins can be hidden with neck hair.

Other men grow beards because they believe their clean-shaven faces are too feminine or pretty. Some people call this the Justin Bieber effect: “No pretty boy look for me!” When you’re 22 it is not uncommon to want to make yourself look as old as possible. A beard will put on five years, maybe ten.

Beard wearing among the hipster subculture has become a signpost of everything ironic and cool, even while a beard is hardly a sign of rebellion, or originality, especially when nearly everybody has one.

City Beat celebrated the Rites of Spring with a visit to Germantown’s Cliveden for a wine tasting with Dr. Patrick E. McGovern, Scientific Director of Biomolecular Archaeology (that’s cuisine and fermented beverages) at the Penn Museum. Dr. Pat, who looks good in a beard, explained the origins of our favorite beverage. We learned about the Royal winemaking industry along the Nile Delta (2700 B.C.), and about the large jars filled with wine buried in the tombs of the Pharaohs. As Dr. Pat talked, we sipped authentic replica wines like Domaine Vassiliou Retsina and Hermes Muscat of Patras and learned that in ancient Rome white wine with a touch of resin was for the upper classes, while Lora and Posca (both reds) were for plebeians and slaves. Conversely, we were sent spiraling back to Mesopotamia and even dipped our palate into a Neolithic-like wine (Iran; Chateau hajji firuz). Wine, for some ancients, was an exclusive club. Roman women, for instance, were thought unfit for the grape, while in the Islamic world the Bacchic poet and astronomer, Omar Khayyam, advised teatolers to “Drink wine. This is life eternal. This is all that youth will give you. It is the season for wine, roses and drunken friends. Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Our Cliveden departure was bittersweet although once outside the mists of falling rain mixed with the aromatic smell of wet leaves from surrounding trees put us in an altered state so that we almost mistook the local Septa bus on Germantown Avenue for a Pharaoh in a Chariot.

The Committee to Abolish the Broad Street Run (CABSR) doesn’t exist yet, but after last

month’s marathon which caused city-wide traffic jams, Septa detour fiascos and the transformation of I-95 into a parking lot, it’s a given that many have cooled on the idea of 38,000 runners bringing the city to a standstill. It’s no fun to have to wait for Septa detour buses when no schedules are posted. Such was the case the night before the run when we found ourselves with a group of people waiting for the Route 15 on Girard Avenue. Lost passengers forced to hail buses going in the opposite direction, were told, “You need to board this bus!” Who knew? It was worse the following day, May 5, the day the runners ran from Broad and Olney to the Navy Yard as heavily armed police, bomb detection dogs, low flying helicopters, and Septa transit police scanned adoring fans for Boston-style red flags. In other parts of town, it was Beehive Central as Cinco de Mayo celebrators in Fishtown--mainly drunk Anglo Saxon hipsters, faces half hidden in cheap wind blown sombreros ---mixed with exhausted Equality Forum Sunday Out stragglers, fresh from the Piazza in Northern Liberties. e spotted grandmother types in PRIDE t-shirts and lots of other happy people (sans those mad at Septa) as well as an unusual number of public drunks falling down in the street, one fellow even losing an entire bag of take-out as he crash landed in the middle of a trolley island. Stranger still, Septa seemed to get worse as the day progressed, reminding us of the relative harmony of winter when there were few disruptions in the city’s transportation schedules.

Fashionistas rarely get their hands dirty…that’s why when we heard that Philadelphia’s Dana Spain, the founder of PAWS and the one time owner of Philadelphia Style magazine, wants to run for mayor in 2015, we reached for our styling guns. Does Dana have what it takes to rule a city as gritty and as (sweat suit) unfashionable as ours? How would she handle home invasions in Oxford Circle and Mayfair? Or the still- unsolved murder of Michael Hagan in Old City? Will her luxurious hair get in the way of political verve? We admit we don’t know enough about Spain, often referred to as “one of Philadelphia’s most fashionable women,” to make a judgment. What we do know is that she has a nice billion dollar townhouse in Queen Village and that her family once owned the (now defunct) Spain Card & Gift Chain. While all this spells well connected, how will she measure up to that other Republican candidate, Tom Knox? And what about the Philly (pit bull) Dem machine that will most likely win the election anyway with Darrell Clarke, Jim Kenny or Bill Green--- or, barring these guys, any candidate at all. We’d welcome a woman mayor, even a glamorous one, and that’s why we’d like to clone Dana with Mariela Castro, daughter of Raul Castro, the current President of Cuba, in town recently to receive a reward from Malcolm Lazin’s Equality Forum for her work in helping to give Cuba’s irksome Marxist patriarchy a more humanitarian face. Ms. Castro, who could easily be a fashion model herself, spoke to a standing room only EF crowd in the UArts’ Tara Building as wired U.S. and Cuban State Department men scanned faces for potential trouble-makers. By advocating a hybrid candidate we’re not saying Dana’s not smart, just that it is going to take something like science fiction to deactivate… the Machine.

Is Philly Pop artist Perry Milou the next Andy Warhol? We headed to Trust at 2nd and Arch for a 20 year retrospective of Milou’s work. Milou, of course, is the son of Striped Bass and Rouge restaurateur, Neil Stein, and so as artists go he’s probably never starved in a loft. Since starving is no passport to genius, we resolved to overlook the “privileged son” angle when we joined hundreds of Milou fans at an all-out Pop and Wham bash that included a PAWS dog on a leash with an “Adopt Me” sign. The punch it to you audacity of Milou’s art brought us face to face with a huge Liz Taylor (that somehow reminded us of Sylvia Brown); a heavily bejeweled Marilyn Monroe: a strikingly beautiful (unibrow) Frida Kahlo; a remarkable full faced—and very distressed looking—,Geronimo as well as a few large iconic portraits of TV’s The Sopranos. The LeRoy Neiman-like sports paintings caught us off guard, as did the kitschy but powerful Yo Philly Rocky icon portrait. Milou, who really isn’t a talkative type, made the rounds, alternating between the first floor and the balcony exhibition area before we caught up with him at the lower level bar. “We like the beautiful Saint Mark’s Venice paintings” we said, referring to a large golden sun drenched impressionistic image of the cathedral that seems to bleed off the canvass. At the end of the evening—while noticing how close someone on the balcony had come to sending Kahlo’s unibrow flying off the wall—we recalled the times we’d spot Milou painting outdoor scenes with Philly artist Charles Cushing. In those days, the word was that Milou “was just learning.” What a difference twenty years-- and emboldened tenacity-- makes.

When we chatted with Clare Stuempfig, a member of the PAFA Women’s Committee, at the 112th PAFA annual student exhibition preview, we learned how at one time students in the show were not allowed to mingle with the preview crowds of potential buyers. Clare informed us she wasn’t sure how or why this rule ever came to be. We came to the conclusion that it was probably based on unfounded fears and sensationalistic stereotypes of how artists might behave among mature patrons. Were the student artists deemed too rustic to rub shoulders with the high and mighty? Would there, for instance, be a replay of Van Gogh slicing off an ear, a Willem De Kooning alcoholic binge, or an absinthe touting de Toulouse-Lautrec knocking over a tray of liver pate? Clare told us that the ban was lifted over a decade ago, meaning that not only do the student artists mingle freely, they even speak to patrons and guests before being spoken to. We got an arty does of that when we were enveloped—nay, nearly overtaken—by one young artist- entrepreneur, Charles Schultz, whose rapid fire pitch had us pinned against the wall and feeling as if we were being mowed down by 1920s gangster, Al Capone. Schultz good naturedly showed us a sample of his hand drawn artistic comic books while urging us to visit (the often forgotten) basement” gallery. Before calling it a night, we said a brief hello to Philly artist Bill Scott, a PAFA alum while looking in the direction of Gerry and Marguerite Lenfest, who sat with Derek Gilman, former PAFA head who (as we overheard in the crowd) “… absconded to head the Barnes…”

The fashion industry, it’s often said, can be a vicious and Narcissistic world, a kind of spiraling Revel’s Bolero in which models spin in a scheming, backstabbing vortex while some of the women that age are thrown out of the loop and left, like feral cats, along the side of the road. Models with a think skin survive, while those with a thinner epidermis may get so fed up they’ll do the unthinkable, like jump off the George Washington Bridge, just as 22 year old model Ashley Riggitano did in February of this year after leaving a note to survivors to make sure that two scheming peers were not invited to the funeral. None of this behavior was evident at the annual Art Institute of Philadelphia’s Student Fashion Show. Packed to the gills, students and parents of students, many in high fashion attire, eyed the stage of Locust Street’s Arts Ballroom as the lines of models began their mesmerizing robotic dance. Awards to top student designers were presented from sponsors such as Neiman Marcus, Nicole Miller and Joan Shepp. Nicole Cashman was also honored for her contributions to the local fashion industry.

Not a fashionista.
Muscles as fashion statement. Brain, the Incredible Hulk, of Mercer Street, 2011.